This topic was inspired by Lauren @ Lose Time Reading. She asked us if we have deal breakers in books, and one of hers was animal abuse. It’s one of mine, too, and I feel the need to talk about it!
My first question is: Why do authors feel the need to do this? To get a reaction? To create controversy? Maybe we’ll never know. But what I know is: 9 times out of 10, it is not necessary. There’s absolutely no need to add in senseless animal death in any novel, especially if it’s fantasy or science fiction. Or horror, for that matter…because that’s the genre I’ve noticed has the most of it. Books and movies both. If I start watching a horror movie and see an animal, the very first thing out of my mouth is “That cat/dog is going to die.” And 90% of the time, I’m right (thank you, Ridley Scott, for proving me wrong).
WHY?! Why have a vampire eat a cat (Sookie Stackhouse), or make your main character MURDER a baby kitten to prove how awful some lab is (Origin), or have the cat get killed for absolutely no reason at all other than it’s a horror book (Anna Dressed in Blood)? Authors need to ask themselves, Is this important to the plot of my story? Will it really make a difference if you cut that scene out? Because the odds are, you’re just going to piss off your readers. When I got to the kitten murder scene in Origin, I was bawling and I DNFed the book immediately. (It wasn’t anything special to begin with, so it wasn’t that hard of a decision.) If it hadn’t been on my Kindle, I would have thrown it at a wall and probably burnt the book afterward. I refuse to ever touch that book again – in fact, I hate the sight of it. I don’t even want to read Vitro because it’s by the same author. A little harsh, maybe, but I have a very strong opinion on this matter and I have a major soft spot for cats.
Now, there is one exception to this. Just one: Kinslayer. (I’m including this whole paragraph in a spoiler tag because it could ruin part of the book for you if you haven’t read it – so beware!) View Spoiler »This is the only book I’ve read with cat murder that I have been able to finish without holding a grudge against the story. Probably only because Jay Kristoff is an epic writer and the story is amazing. Jay pulls no punches, and has no qualms about killing off characters, no matter how important they are. Or no matter what species they are. Which is probably why Daken’s death didn’t make me quit: It was a character death. Daken wasn’t just a cat. He was a sentient being that could speak to one of the main characters, and his death was a sacrifice to save her. This is probably the only time where it would be an exception, because it actually mattered to the story. But that didn’t make it any easier to read. I was bawling for hours after that scene, and it was quite a while before I could pick the book back up again. « Hide Spoiler
I know, I know: I’ve only talked about cat killing. It’s not that I don’t care about dog killing, but I have yet to read a book where a dog was killed (not that I can remember, anyway). I know it would affect me, but it probably wouldn’t get to me as much. Sounds horrible, but I’m not really a huge dog person. I’m not okay with dog killing by any means, I just don’t have as much of a soft spot for them as I do for cats. Cats are very special to me. If you’re not a cat person, you wouldn’t understand >.<